Playful Design

UXLx | 2011 See all

Playful Design

Speaker: Christian Crumlish

These days everybody talks about game mechanics, badges, points, and leaderboards, but less attention is paid to the role of play in digital experiences. After childhood, play rarely "just happens," but you can design for it.
Taking ideas from game design, musical instrument design, and play-acting techniques including improv and bodystorming, Christian will address the role of play in digital experiences and how our designs can foster and encourage play rather than squeeze all the joy out of life one pixel at a time.

In game design, you create an arena for play. You establish boundaries and rules and you work to tune game dynamics that yield fun experiences rather than boring, mechanical, or pointless drudgery. Within those boundaries and rules, the players create their own unique experience, collaboratively, every time. Again the marriage of strict purposeful constraints with open space and room for human variation creates the best game experiences.

Children gravitate toward play-acting naturally but over time those skills can be lost. Giving people contexts in which they can explore alternate identities, wear masks, co-create stories, re-enact important events, or make snowmen and sandcastles can summon up that inner never-fully-lost capacity to enter a flow state.

Can an enterprise app, maybe one that looks like a spreadsheet and reports to HR ever actually be fun? That's a stretch, but you can absolutely introduce elements of play into the most buttoned-down context. Consider one primitive gesture from games: collecting. Many games offer some form of gather, arranging, and displaying objects. Just so, even an HR portal may offer some opportunity to incorporate a collecting "game" into the workflow.

Christian will share techniques for introducing a sense of play into the experiences we're designing and will exhort the assembled crowd to make life more fun for our users and to thrive while doing so.